A couple of weeks ago, my good friend Gregory Alonzo of Terrel Wines provided a tasting of wines from the Republic of Georgia at Valencia Wine Company. This tasting was an introduction as well as an education on very unique wines. Here is a little background from an earlier article that I wrote on these wines.
The wines from Republic of Georgia were first cultivated in the Neolithic time period over 7000 years ago. The majority was used during various religious ceremonies with the beginning of Christianity at the start of the 4th Century. Wine production, though updates in the process have occurred over the century, still involves the use of stone, wooden wine presses and large double-walled clay jugs known as Kvevri. The Kvevri is buried into the ground providing temperature control of the wine “must” (grape juice and skins) during the fermentation process.
The Republic of Georgia lies between the Black and Caspian Seas and borders on Turkey, Russia and Armenia. Many archaeologists believe that this is the location where the first cultivated grapevines and Neolithic wine production began over 7000 years ago.
Through various archaeological findings, it has been discovered that winemaking was at a very advanced state long before Christ was born. The majority of these wines were used during various religious ceremonies with the beginning of Christianity at the start of the 4th Century.
This week, Greg sent me an update that provides archaeological evidence that defines the beginning of wines in the Republic of Georgia to the STONE AGE. This is about 1,000 years before the information that was available during my first article. Yes, man was creating the fine grape juices a long time ago and archaeological findings are narrowing down the actual beginning for those of us interested in the heritage of wine. Below is the article written by David Keys about the new discovery.
Now that’s what you call a real vintage: professor unearths 8,000-year-old wine
Scientists have discovered the world’s oldest wine – a vintage produced by Stone Age people 8,000 years ago. The find pushes back the history of wine by several hundred years.
New discoveries show how Neolithic man was busy “bottling” and deliberately ageing red wine in Georgia, the former Soviet republic. Although no liquid wine from the period has survived, scientists have now found and tested wine residues discovered on the inner surfaces of 8,000-year-old ceramic storage jars.
Biochemical tests on the ancient pottery wine jars from Georgia are showing that at this early period humans were deliberately adding anti-bacterial preservatives to grape juice so that the resulting wine could be kept for longer periods after fermentation. The preservative used was tree resin, which contains several bactericidal compounds, says Professor Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the scientist leading the study of ceramics from the 6th and 5th millennia BC. The wine may have tasted something like retsina, the resin-preserved wine still popular in Greece.
The development of pottery in the Middle East and the Caucasus regions also seems to have played a key role in the production of the first wines, especially vintage ones. Ceramic containers were able to preserve wines far better than the plaster or leather containers that had previously been used. Plaster was far too porous and reactive, while sealed animal skin or leather bags could not be used to store wine for sufficiently long periods. Examination of the pottery shards has also revealed the large carrying capacity of these early wine jars – around five liters.
Professor McGovern’s study has also yielded extraordinary evidence of the cultural – and probably religious – importance of early vintage wine. While examining Neolithic Georgian pottery jars used to store and age wine, he discovered a series of tiny, highly stylized relief images of Stone Age people celebrating the vine. The ancient world had a long tradition deifying the source of wine, and Professor McGovern believes he may have stumbled upon the prehistoric origins of what much later evolved into wine cults such as those of the Greek god Dionysus and Dionysus’s Roman equivalent, Bacchus. He has recently published his groundbreaking discoveries in a book, Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press).
Eight thousand years ago, the archaeological site where the oldest wine jar shards were found, Shulaveri in Georgia, was a small, densely populated hilltop town. Archaeological investigations have revealed several houses containing wine jars. Intriguingly, the area lies adjacent to the region associated with one of the world’s first recorded drunks, the biblical figure Noah, whose first non-religious act after the flood was to plant a vineyard.
David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
Sitting here with my cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, I am pondering the fact that man was making huge technological advancements even during the Stone Age. They may not have understood all of the scientific processes that were occurring during this time but they found methods to create and preserve the wine. This is complex. Looking through time, it is astonishing how man has worked through challenges and all of the high-tech items that we have and use every day of our life. In the old days, I would have been typing this article on a typewriter and mailing it to Eve. She would then re-type and mail to all of our readers. Now, everything is done electronically. No wonder that we were able to put man on the moon.